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The draft genome of a socially polymorphic halictid bee, Lasioglossum albipes

Sarah D Kocher127*, Cai Li23, Wei Yang2, Hao Tan2, Soojin V Yi4, Xingyu Yang4, Hopi E Hoekstra15, Guojie Zhang26, Naomi E Pierce1 and Douglas W Yu78*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford St, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

2 China National GeneBank, BGI-Shenzhen, Shenzen 518083, China

3 Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 5-7, Copenhagen 1350, Denmark

4 School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA

5 Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard University, 26 Oxford St, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

6 Centre for Social Evolution, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, Copenhagen DK-2100, Denmark

7 State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Kunming, Yunnan 650223, China

8 School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, Norfolk NR47TJ, UK

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Genome Biology 2013, 14:R142  doi:10.1186/gb-2013-14-12-r142

Published: 20 December 2013



Taxa that harbor natural phenotypic variation are ideal for ecological genomic approaches aimed at understanding how the interplay between genetic and environmental factors can lead to the evolution of complex traits. Lasioglossum albipes is a polymorphic halictid bee that expresses variation in social behavior among populations, and common-garden experiments have suggested that this variation is likely to have a genetic component.


We present the L. albipes genome assembly to characterize the genetic and ecological factors associated with the evolution of social behavior. The de novo assembly is comparable to other published social insect genomes, with an N50 scaffold length of 602 kb. Gene families unique to L. albipes are associated with integrin-mediated signaling and DNA-binding domains, and several appear to be expanded in this species, including the glutathione-s-transferases and the inositol monophosphatases. L. albipes has an intact DNA methylation system, and in silico analyses suggest that methylation occurs primarily in exons. Comparisons to other insect genomes indicate that genes associated with metabolism and nucleotide binding undergo accelerated evolution in the halictid lineage. Whole-genome resequencing data from one solitary and one social L. albipes female identify six genes that appear to be rapidly diverging between social forms, including a putative odorant receptor and a cuticular protein.


L. albipes represents a novel genetic model system for understanding the evolution of social behavior. It represents the first published genome sequence of a primitively social insect, thereby facilitating comparative genomic studies across the Hymenoptera as a whole.